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Egypt court sentences rights activists to prison under new law

An Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced three human rights activists to three years in prison and fined each of them $7,000 USD for violating the country's controversial new anti-protest law. Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohammed Adel were convicted [BBC report] of participating in an illegal protest and allegedly assaulting policemen during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution [JURIST backgrounder]. The three men were among a group that protested in late November against the new law [JURIST report] that circumscribed citizens' right to protest in public. Douma was arrested [JURIST report] earlier this month according to a posted tweet. The men also played a key role in the protests that forced the resignation [JURIST report] of former President Hosni Mubarak [JURIST news archives] in 2011, but more recently they have joined other activists in protesting many of the actions of the country's current government. Proponents argue that this new law will maintain peace and order while opponents claim that the law is an attempt to oppress dissent.

Egypt has faced political unrest since its Revolution [JURIST backgrounder], which began more than two years ago. Earlier this month Egypt's draft constitution was finalized [JURIST report] by a 50-member assembly, creating uncertainty about the country's election procedures. The draft dictates that elections are to take place within the first six months of the constitution's ratification. However, the draft does not determine whether a presidential election should be held before or after parliamentary elections. Last month, Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah [Twitter feed] was arrested [JURIST report] on charges of inciting a demonstration in violation of the country's controversial new law restricting rights to protest. Egypt Prosecutor General Hisham Bakarat issued a warrant [AP report] for Abd El Fattah for failing to notify the police [AhramOnline report] in advance of the protests he allegedly organized.

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